PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A Philadelphia judge is giving Robert Williams at least three months to earn back his status as rapper Meek Mill.
Common Pleas Judge Genece Brinkley on Friday ordered Mill to serve 90 days on house arrest, effective March 1, for violating the terms of his parole in a 2009 drug and gun case. While the judge’s sentence keeps him out of jail, his career will remain on hold, as he won’t be able to return to rapping until June at the earliest.
Mill, 28, was found in violation of his parole in December. He blamed his erratic concert schedule, but Philadelphia prosecutors linked the problem to his romance with Nicki Minaj, who sat in the front row for Friday’s hearing.
Mill’s defense team again presented a parade of witnesses during a four-hour hearing prior to the sentencing who spoke of the more than two dozen community service events he has done around the city in recent weeks while awaiting his fate. Also in that time, Mill has hired a life coach, who told the judge on Friday that she is already seeing a change in the person she first met as an immature 18-year-old.
“I’m observing a completely different man … I firmly believe Mr. Williams wants to be right and do right,” said Dyana Williams, who has also worked with R&B singer Mary J. Blige and rapper T.I.
Others talked about their interactions with Mill, discussing his future plans, his desire to attend college, be a good father to his 3-year-old son and become a full-fledged music entrepreneur.
At times, the judge was conflicted about whether she was convinced of Mill’s progress, asking more than a couple of witnesses: “How many chances do you expect for me to give him?”
“I’m not sure that he’s turned the corner,” Brinkley said before sentencing Mill.
Before the judge issued his sentence, Mill - who has alternately complained about probation and credited the judge with helping him succeed - thanked her repeatedly for giving him a chance, regardless of her decision.
“I just want to ask you for a chance to turn that corner and be a changed man,” he said. “You said you saw something in me … I want to prove you right. I believe I can be the bright star you intended me to be.”
Under the judge’s ruling, Mill cannot work during the three-month period and must do daily community service with groups serving adults - not the young people who idolize him.
In the seven weeks since his last court hearing, Mill has visited several high schools, including a stop Thursday at Philadelphia’s Boys Latin High School, where he urged students to work hard before letting them take photographs with him.
Mill’s house arrest could be extended for up to a year. Brinkley sentenced him to six to 12 months in county prison, but credited him 24 months for time served. After three months, the judge will revisit whether he should remain on house arrest or be allowed to return to work.
Brinkley also sentenced Mill to six more years of probation. The judge has kept tight reins on Mill after giving him a break in his initial case. She once sent him back to jail and this time had threatened to send him to state prison for two years.
Prosecutors described violations that include unapproved travel to New York for a benefit concert and efforts to join Minaj in various cities. They also said he turned in cold water instead of urine for a drug test, making the judge question if a prior problem with painkillers was at issue.
Minaj told the judge in December that she was trying to help her boyfriend become more organized and responsible. They have been frequently been seated courtside at the Philadelphia 76ers games for the past two months, since Brinkley ordered Mill not to leave the Philadelphia area.
Minaj did not testify Friday. At one point during the judge’s remarks, she appeared to have been crying.
Errin Haines Whack covers urban affairs for The Associated Press. Follow her on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/emarvelous .
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